Hurry Hinders Connection : Some advice for leaders

I showed up to one of the branch offices that I manage on a hazy winter day, where the temperatures felt more like August than January. As I drove north on Pacific Coast Highway, I noticed the ugly beige layer of smog like a heavy blanket over the ocean. It felt like a metaphor of sorts. For months, this particular branch had been hard work for me, and it felt like the heavy layer of disappointment and disillusionment would never clear.

I walked in, unannounced as I often do. I rarely schedule visits to the branches that I manage. It’s not that I want to catch someone in the act of doing something wrong, it’s more that my days can be fluid, and it’s nice to be able to drop in without being concerned about making it to my next appointment on time. When I can, I sit down, chat for awhile and then use a spare computer to check my email.

Yes I do carry a smart phone, and yes my email is conveniently there for me to check. I don’t have to use a computer to check my email. I could just pull out my phone rather than taking the time to log on to a computer and check it there. I could but I don’t, and here is why:

After some small talk asking about family members, discussing what we might do with certain situations in the office, I could have walked out the door and drove on to my next stop. Instead, as I lingered in the office, checking email, getting a cup of coffee, someone walked by me and said,

Oh yeah, I’ve been meaning to ask you…
Can I pick your brain a minute…?
What do I do about…?

It happens almost every time I do this practice of lingering. And this is exactly why I do it. Invariably, things will come up, questions will surface, something seemingly too small for a call or an email. I get the opportunity to interact, solve a problem, answer a quick question, put someone’s mind at ease. These things wouldn’t have happened if I rushed off to my next stop. You might call this my remote open door policy. I do it because,

Hurry hinders connection.

Oh yes, I could be more productive. I could visit more branches, talk with more people, answer more emails, check boxes off my list. But over the years, I’ve come to recognize that while I have budgets to manage, goals to meet, and business to grow, the single most important role in my job is one of building trust and rapport with the people I manage.

My number one advice to leaders?

If you’re going to be a leader, you can’t shortcut your way into building trust with those you lead. You have to invest the time. If you don’t, you’ll wind up managing a group of people by dragging them along instead of leading a group of people who (mostly) willingly follow you.

History has many great leaders we can model our leadership after. King David from the Bible is one such leader that I have drawn inspiration from. Here’s what another psalmist wrote about him:

“David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.” Psalm 78:72

David went from being a shepherd in the fields to being the King of Judah. As a boy, he spent a lot of time working to keep a flock of sheep heading in the right direction, protecting them from predators, and leading them to places where they could graze and drink. It’s no small wonder that he was able to shepherd people in the same way.

Perhaps that’s why one of the most beautiful and well-known Psalms was written by David, reminding himself and others that leading is a lot like shepherding:

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want… He makes me lie down in green pastures… He leads me beside still waters…” Psalm 23

That day, with it’s hazy disappointment and disillusion blanketing the atmosphere, could have gone differently. I could have rushed on through, conducted the business I needed to and moved on unaware of missed opportunities to connect. But because I spent a few minutes lingering there, unhurried by my to-do list, I had the opportunity to be a shepherd, leading these people to calm and rest. And because I did, a few days later I received an email that gave me some hope:

Thanks for all you do for us. We really do appreciate you.

I didn’t do much. I just spent time, and they are learning to trust in me, their leader. It starts with investing the time.

Hurry Hinders Connection. 

 

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